Tripod head recommendations?

Started Jun 6, 2012 | Discussions thread
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Fearless_Photog
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Tripod head recommendations?
Jun 6, 2012

I'm going to start this off by saying I'm a long time still photographer, but I've only recently started getting series about video. I've shot the occasional casual video every once in a while. However now I have a D4 on order, and even though I choose it primarily for it's still camera capability, I plan on taking full advantage of the video capability as well.

When it comes to still photography one of my primary interests is wildlife, and this will be one of my primary subjects for video as well. This past week I was shooting some animal videos for a short film my friend is making, using my current rig of a Panasonic GF1 with an F-mount adapter mounted to my Nikon 300mm f/4 AF-S, on his tripod, which is a very cheap basic video tripod with a pan/tilt head. Not sure of it's specs, but most likely not designed to support something like the 300 f/4, and not a fluid head.

After one outing doing this I came to the conclusion that I need my own pan/tilt head, but one that's capable of much smoother movement for actually tracking moving animals, and also designed to handle a decent amount of weight and lock securely. My planned video rig will consist of the D4, and sometimes a lens as big as the 300mm f/4 AF-S, as well as other accessories such as an external mic, external recorder, and some kind of additional LCD or EVF in the future.

My current tripod is a Manfrotto 055XPROB: http://www.adorama.com/BG055XPROB.html

I've been doing some research and come up with a few potential video heads that seem to fit the bill:

Probably currently my first choice: Manfrotto 55 Mag Photo-Movie Head Q5 with Quick Release http://www.adorama.com/BGMH055M8Q5.html

This seems like it does everything I want as far as video control, supports a decent amount of weight, and would double as a general use still photography head. My only real reservation is that a dedicated video head might handle the video side of things better.

Another contender: Gitzo GH2720FQR Series 2 Magnesium 2 Way Head Safari
http://www.adorama.com/GZGH2720FQR.html

On paper this looks like it could be ideal, being biased specifically toward wildlife use, however it also seems more biased toward spotting scope users than video shooters. I also haven't found many user reviews, and one I did find said the panning was very choppy and un-usable for video shooting. Another review seemed to think it was perfect.

Finally: These are the dedicated video heads I looked at, the Manfrotto 501HDV and Manfrotto 504HD
http://www.adorama.com/BG501HDV.html
http://www.adorama.com/BG504HD.html

Maybe one of these is still the best option? If so, is the 504 worth the premium?

Hopefully there are some people on here who have experience with some of these heads, or other heads which could fit the same application. Any advice is welcome. Thanks in advance.

Nikon D4 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GF1 Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH2
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